by Bill Zoellick and Sarah Hooper
Last week was “Partners Week” for the K-12 education team at Schoodic Institute.
In education work, our key partner is Acadia National Park’s Schoodic Education Adventure program (SEA). On Monday we met with Friends of Acadia to take a close look at the business side of the SEA program. Beyond the financial details, the big takeaway from this meeting is that all three organizations — Schoodic Institute, Friends of Acadia, and Acadia National Park — are essential to making SEA successful. We agreed that going forward, we will take steps to coordinate our communications to the public — especially to foundations and other donors — to talk about what makes the SEA program unique and about the partnership that makes it possible. The SEA program is a jewel.
On Friday we talked in detail about our shared involvement in the Environmental Learning and Living for Maine Students (ELLMS) program, a partnership that brings us together with Chewonki, The Ecology School, and the U-Maine 4-H Centers. ELLMS has been a source of scholarship support for SEA. It is also the primary source of support for the CSI-Maine program, where we work with kids, the community, and clams. We all see the potential to help ELLMS grow. Nick and Sarah will be taking the lead on the Schoodic Institute side, picking up on work that Bill has been doing, and the park is exploring ways to increase its engagement.
Growing the SEA program depends on increased support for scholarships since most schools need financial aid to participate. Nathan Broaddus is the newly hired manager for the Nature Based Education Consortium, which brings together 27 organizations, including land trusts, the University of Maine 4-H program, nonprofit organizations like us, and others. The consortium seeks to build public support for a state-wide program to ensure that ALL Maine children will have access to high-quality outdoor learning. Other states, including Colorado, Oregon, California, and New Mexico, have state-wide supports in place — we hope that Maine can. too. The fruits of this collaboration will be in the future, but it’s great to be working with so many other partners toward a shared vision. Schoodic Institute is the fiscal sponsor for NBEC.
We also met recently with Sarah Kirn of Gulf of Maine Research Institute. The focus of this partnership is on creating and sharing a web-based platform that enables us to deliver curriculum materials to teachers and to share the research data that students generate with other schools and with town committees and others who can use the data. GMRI is in the early stages of designing and launching such a platform. Our work at Schoodic Institute is useful to them because it is not just for schools, but also for communities. Both Schoodic Institute and GMRI believe that having this kind of platform will help in expanding our work to other schools and communities.
We weren’t in the mud with teachers and students last week but were in close touch with Nikki Chan (RSU 24 Curriculum Director) and Susan Walsh (RSU 24 Instructional Coach) to plan for a day of working with middle and high school teachers tomorrow. We will take a first look at what students and teachers thought about our fieldwork last week and then will spend most of the day setting out the plan for this school year. We are excited to have this chunk of uninterrupted time to work with our RSU 24 colleagues — what we are doing with RSU 24 is breaking new ground both for us and for the district.
Other than the big day working with teachers tomorrow, the other important meeting this week is a trip with Mike Pinkham to the Downeast Institute on Friday. DEI is an important partner in our CSI-Maine work. In our meeting on Friday, Brian Beal will help us with the design of a way to overwinter newly recruited clams. That project, if successful, will be economically important to the town, will help with clam management work, and will be an important part of the CSI-Maine program at the high school this year.